How do writers create fictional worlds? What happens to readers as they imaginatively move “out of this world” to immerse themselves in storyworlds? Contemporary novels about escapes from confinement range across the genres: we will read thrillers, dystopias, literary fiction, and one novel originally written for publication on the web. Students will learn the vocabulary and analytical techniques of narrative theory in this course on contemporary fiction.
Components of the grade.
20% participation and attendance: participation matters most, but excessive absences result in failure no matter how well you do when you are there.
10% midterm examination (essay): will not be rescheduled or given early for any reason.
30% paper #1: 6-7 pages, 1800-2000 words. You must turn in both papers to pass the course.
30% paper #2: paper #1: 6-7 pages, 1800-2000 words
10% cumulative, objective final examination. A grade of 59 or less earns the course grade of E. You must take the final exam to pass the course.
course website at http://sakai.wlu.edu
Required Texts. Do not buy alternate editions.
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (Anchor:ISBN 978-0385721677)
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (Norton: ISBN: 978-0393312836)
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (Scholastic: ISBN: 978-0439023528)
Emma Donoghue, Room (Back Bay Books: ISBN 978-0316098328)
Xiaolu Guo, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Anchor: ISBN978-0307278401)
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Vintage: ISBN978-1400032716)
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form (Palgrave Macmillan: ISBN 978-0333960974)
David Mitchell, Ghostwritten (Vintage: ISBN 978-0375724503)
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto (Harper Perennial: ISBN: 978-0-06-083872-0)
Geoff Ryman, 253 (St Martin’s Griffin: ISBN: 978-0312182953). http://www.ryman-novel.com/
If it comes out during winter term and is shown in Lexington, we will make an effort to see the film of The Hunger Games.
How to Succeed in this Course
1. Do all the reading on time.
2. Come to class faithfully.
3. Speak up with comments and questions.
4. Realize that the best participators listen and respond well to others.
5. Seek advice about paper topics and completed drafts from me.
6. Use your peers to swap work—just acknowledge them in your pledge.
7. Don’t rely on the internet to do your thinking for you.
8. If you look at online resources, take careful notes with URL, date of access, title and author if available.
9. What you didn’t know when you entered the course cannot be considered common knowledge. Cite your sources, including other people and web pages, but understand that the main goals of the writing in this course do not include “research.”
Did I mention, do all the reading? That will make the final exam considerably less scary.
The Long and Short of it: Novels and Novellas
Framed by a reading of two recent novels comprised of novellas, this course investigates the relationship between the shorter and longer forms of narrative prose fiction. Unlike the short story, which by definition can be read in a single sitting, novellas are a bit longer—around 100 pages—and they typically show unity of purpose and form. They often focus on a central problem of considerable heft and implement literary symbols. Novels can do these things, too, but by way of contrast, they accommodate more digressions, episodes, plot-lines, and characters, and they have virtually been defined by their polyvocality. Novels often spill over into sequels, trilogies, and series, but until the work of David Mitchell, novellas have nearly never taken a sequence form. Reading a variety of novels and novellas by contemporary British and American writers gives us an opportunity to investigate the relations between narrative form and function or impact. Later British or American, for English Department distribution purposes.
Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow. Vintage. ISBN-13. 978-0679735724
Emily Barton. The Testament of Yves Gundron. Washington Square. ISBN-13: 978-0743411486 3
Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader. Picador. ISBN-13: 978-0312427641
A. S. Byatt, Angels and Insects. Vintage. ISBN-13: 978-0679751342
J. L. Carr. A Month in the Country. NYRB Classics. ISBN-13: 978-0940322479
Justin Evans, A Good and Happy Child. Three Rivers. ISBN-13: 978-0307351289
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Vintage. ISBN-13: 978-1400032716
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN-13: 978-0333960974
Doris Lessing. The Fifth Child. Vintage. ISBN-13: 978-0679721826
Chris Mazza, Disability: A Novella. Fiction Collective. ISBN-13: 978-1573661218
David Mitchell, The Cloud Atlas. Random House. ISBN-13: 978-0375507250
—Ghostwritten. Vintage. ISBN-13: 978-0375724503
Components of the grade. All elements must be completed to pass the course:
20% participation and faithful attendance
10% midterm examination: will not be administered late or early for any reason
25% paper #1: 6-7 pages, 1800-2000 words
25% paper #2: 6-7 pages, 1800-2000 words
20% objective final examination. A grade of 59 or less earns the course grade of E.
Good Things Come in Threes
Professor Suzanne Keen firstname.lastname@example.org
Good Things Come in Threes: from the Victorian triple-decker to the modern trilogy. This section of the Novel investigates the specific aspects of narrative form expressed and subjected to experimentation in works in three parts. (For English major distribution, this course can be counted as Later British.)
Components of the grade (all elements must be completed to pass the course):
20% participation and attendance
10% midterm exam
25% paper #1: 6-7 pages, 1800-2000 words
25% paper #2: 6-7 pages, 1800-2000 words
20% final examination with an objective component. A grade of 59 or less earns the course grade of E. See the course catalog for information governing the replacement of E grades (conditional failure).
Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre (Norton Critical Edition). 3RD edition ISBN: 0393975428
J RR Tolkien, The Fellowship of The Ring. Houghton Mifflin, ISBN: 0618002235
J RR Tolkien, The Two Towers. Houghton Mifflin, ISBN: 0618002235
J RR Tolkien , The Return of the King. Houghton Mifflin ISBN: 0618002243
Pat Barker, Regeneration. Plume ISBN: 0452270073
Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door. Plume ISBN: 0452272726
Pat Barker, The Ghost Road. Plume ISBN: 0452276721
Roddy Doyle, The Barrytown Trilogy ( The Commitments , The Van , and The Snapper ) Penguin ISBN: 0140252622
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials Trilogy (boxed set) Laurel ISBN: 0440238609
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form. Palgrave ISBN: 0333960971
Earlier versions of the course:
This course explores the craft of narrative fiction and formal experimentation in the novel. We will read major prizewinning and popular novels to get at the qualities of the most celebrated fiction of our time. Throughout the course, discussions will return to a variety of questions about the function of novels in our culture. Is it true, as many authorities claim, that reading novels makes you a better world citizen? If so, how does the novel reading experience translate into action in the real world? Do certain genres, character types, or styles of writing work better than others? Does the implicit gender of the novel's audience alter the way we respond to its form and content? Does introduction to the minds, motives, and experiences of fictional “others” strikingly different from ourselves alter our attitudes or actions towards the real people we encounter in daily life? How would we be able to tell if a novel reading experience changed our behavior? (For English major distribution, this course can be counted as Later British.)
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form
Margaret Atwood , Oryx and Crake
Louis de Bernieres, Birds without Wings
David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
Mark Hadden, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
Valerie Martin, Property
Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown
Possible Consequences of Reading (modes and forms)
This course explores the craft of narrative fiction and the history of formal experimentation in the novel, including several of its subgenres and forms of publication. Fictional worldmaking does not necessarily imply commitments to realistic representation, but many theories of fiction and meditations on the importance of reading place realism above other modes with roots in romance. We will read a contemporary dystopia, a multiplot Victorian novel, two very different historical novels about the World War II period, a fantasy novel that makes up part of a series, a science fiction novel, a work of domestic realism, and a postcolonial revisionist historical fiction that looks back to Dickens and the Victorians. Throughout the course, discussions will return to a variety of questions about the function of novels in our culture. Is it true, as many authorities claim, that reading novels makes you a better world citizen? If so, how does the novel reading experience translate into action in the real world? Do certain genres, character types, or styles of writing work better than others? Does the implicit gender of the novel’s audience alter the way we respond to its form and content? Does introduction to the minds, motives, and experiences of fictional “others” strikingly different from ourselves alter our attitudes or actions towards the real people we encounter in daily life? How would we be able to tell if a novel reading experience changed our behavior? (For English major distribution, this course can be counted as Later British.)
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form (Palgrave)
Room Temperature (Vintage)
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (Aspect)
Peter Carey, Jack Maggs (Vintage)
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit (Penguin)
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (Vintage)
Ian McEwan, Atonement (Anchor)
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Scholastic)
Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow (Fawcett/Ballantine)
See also old syllabi under English 207.